Sexuality Policy Watch

Sexual politics in August 2018

#MourningMuseuNacional: As this announcement was being finalized, the Brazilian National Museum burned in flames. A singular and irrecoverable collection of the country’s historical and cultural memory, painfully accumulated in the course of the last two hundred years, is gone. Devastated and speechless, we join with our hearts and minds the deep mourning of our friends, partners and collaborators who belong to the Museu community.

#MariellePresent: Elapsed five months, the assassination of Marielle Franco remains unresolved while her fiancée Monica Benicio and her sister Arielle da Silva request protection after receiving death threats. Amnesty International delivered a series of letters and statements (Read in Portuguese).

#Nicaragua: The violence in the Ortega-Murillo’s dictatorship lingers on. The UN Human Rights Council has issued a new denunciation of the widespread disproportionate use of force and extrajudicial executions by police, disappearances, and arbitrary arrests against the Nicaraguan Government and demanded the creation of an independent investigative organism. In response, the UN team was expelled from the country and, consequently, triggered a more severe reaction, as the country’s situation became a topic in the UN Security Council agenda with consequences yet to be known.

Vatican politics

A final report by the Public Prosecutor Office of Pennsylvania brought light into systematic sex abuse perpetrated by 300 clergymen over the last 70 involving more than 1,000 children victims. The issuing of the report triggered a virulent mobilizing from the extreme conservative sectors of the Catholic Church against Pope Francis that has opened the Pandora box of “dirty” intestine wars within the institution (see a compilation).

Meanwhile, in Chile, cases of sexual harassment and rape involving fifteen members of the Marist order in Chile became public (read in Spanish). On August 20th, the Chilean Network of Survivors of Ecclesiastical Abuse convened a vigil in front of the Santiago Cathedral to protest these crimes and, on the next day, Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati was deposed. SPW’s collaborator Jaime Barrientos examines the continuing erosion of the Church credibility in the country’s society and its effects on sexual politics. We thank him for these comments.

LGBTTI rights

The good news of the month is that the Indian Supreme Court has issued a final decision on the unconstitutionality of article 377 of the Penal Code, that criminalizes same-sex relations (see a compilation). Even before the decision, Vivek Divan has written a insightful article  on how criminalization negatively affected  LGBT people’s lives and the wider struggle for fundamental rights in India  and has also recaptured the long trajectory of this debate and victory in another piece written for Arc International.

On July 5, the Cuenca Family Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, following a previous Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling on the subject that implicates all OAS country members to enact the immediate realization of the ruling. SPW thanks Manuela Picq and Catalina Eskola for their analyses of this groundbreaking decision (read in Spanish).

On August 28, California’s Senate legislature passed Resolution SCR110, co-sponsored by interACT, Advocates for Intersex Youth, and Equality California. This is the first successful legislative move in the US that call for ethical medical standards for the care for intersex children that are grounded on human rights and the respect for their autonomy.

In Uruguay, the Comprehensive Trans Persons Act, is under the full attack of conservative religious sectors. A number of senators are now against various aspects of the law, in particular, the right to gender identity of minors.

In Armenia on August 3rd, LGBT suffered a violent attack by a mob of thirty people. The investigation into the attack was ineffective and the event encouraged the Prime Minister to deploy a clear anti -LGBT rights discourse.

The new Observatory on Violence Against Transgender and Non-Binary people in the Latin American and Caribbean region has been announced, which will be run by the Uruguayan Trans Collective, the Brazilian networks ANTRA and IBTE, and Argentinean OTRANS.

Abortion rights

On August 8th, the abortion law approved by the House in June was down by seven votes in the Argentinean Senate. But, right after the defeat, various senators and other voices openly declared that the legalizing proposal will return in 2019. The Senate voting has also sparked a massive outcry against the Catholic Church, including a collective call for apostasy. Regrettably, since the defeat, two women have died from botched abortions. The bill’s return is a prospect now dependent on the evolution of the country’s political climate, that shows a growing instability due to austerity measures, recommended by the IMF, and applied by President Macri that have led to a socioeconomic fragile situation. Whatever comes next, the campaign on the law was an amazing example of representative democracy that mobilized the whole Argentinean society and Latin America.

The other main Latin American event on abortion rights to be reported was the Public Hearing called by the Brazilian Supreme court to hear specialists, activists and religious sectors on the arguments in favor of abortion decriminalization proposed by ADPF 442/2017 (read here and here). Sonia Corrêa reports on the antecedents, contents and meanings of these two days of two days of discussions and Angela Freitas offers an overview of feminist activism propelled by these debates. Despite unequivocal gains, the growing aggressiveness of anti-abortion forces is also to be noted (see Corrêa’s article and check below).

One year after the abortion law reform, in Chile and in response to massive demonstrations demanding its enlargement, the Congress opposition tabled a new draft bill that calls for the decriminalization of the practice until the 14th week of pregnancy (read in Spanish). As expected, the proposal faces fierce resistance on the part of the Piñera administration.

The future Mexican Secretary of State, feminist Olga Sánchez declared the intention of the recently elected government to homogenize state abortion laws across the country, on the basis of the 2007 Mexico City legislation.

In Morocco, a new guideline issued by the Ministry of Health suspended the sales of Artotec — a medicine for arthritis based on misoprostol. A press statement against the measure was made public by the feminist organization MALI (Alternative Movement for Individual Liberties, in English), leading to the 24 hours arrest of its co-founder, Betty Lachgar. After activist pressure, Lachgar was released on August, 18th.

In Sumatra (Indonesia), a coalition of twelve NGOs succeeded in collecting fifteen thousand signatures to release, WA, a 15-year-old girl who had been convicted for the “crime of abortion”.

Anti-gender and anti-abortion politics

In Hungary, the Orban administration threatened to ban the two existing gender studies post-graduate programs, currently at ELTE and CEU. A wave of international protest and solidarity has ensued of which we call particular attention to the letter signed by 119 representatives of gender programs worldwide and the note signed by Clare Hemmings, director of the Gender Department at the LSE, who welcomes pieces on transnational antigender politics.  These pressures seem to have had a positive effect, at least for the time being (to check other letter and related news).

In Brazil, there are good and not so good news to report. Positively enough professor Maria Clara Dias, from IFICS in Rio, has judicially won her case. However, also in the state of Rio, quotas offered by postgraduate programs of federal universities to trans and travesti students have been judicially contested by an Evangelical pastor. Anti-gender frays have also intensified outside the academia (read in Portuguese).

In early August, anti-abortion and anti-gender groups and personalities organized an Anti-Feminist Congress in a Catholic Church facility in Rio to voice their regular diatribes against gender and abortion and launch the candidacies of two of their female leaders (the event was insightfully reported in Portuguese by Victor Calcagno in the weekly magazine Época). Two weeks later, the same crowd gathered at the opening in Rio of the QueerMuseum that a year ago, under the pressure of these same forces,  had been suspended in Porto Alegre. This time they called for the restriction in the age of attendance (see a compilation). The most preoccupying aspect of this scenario is, however, that threats against abortion rights activists also pertain to the vicious climate systematically created by the same actors preaching against gender. The attacks against professor Debora Diniz, which started before the Supreme Court Public Hearing, though consistently investigated remain a matter of concerns. After the Hearing, threats were geared towards the feminist pastor Lusmarina Garcia who then fiercely criticized the patriarchal imprints of religious views against abortion.


The #MeToo has taken a new and non-predicted turn in the case involving NYU professor Avital Ronell, who was accused of sexual harassment by her ex PDH student David Reitman. The case has drastically widened the conversation around #MeToo premises and effects. SPW especially recommends Masha Gessen’s article on The New Yorker as well as a wide compilation of articles regarding the case.

UNFPA was also accused of hindering an investigation into sexual harassment and assault authored by one of its senior officials, Diego Palacios, of the India Division. The investigation claimed arguments were inconclusive and argued that Palacios had immunity until a formal request was made by government authorities.

Michael Kimmel, professor of sociology at Stony Brook University in New York and gender equality NGO Promundo’s Board member, stepped down after sexual harassment accusations.

Women’s rights

According to the latest data provided by 16 countries in the region (13 in Latin America and three in the Caribbean), a total of 1,496 femicides were registered in 2013,  and in 2016 the number rose to 1,831. The absence of data provided by Brazil is noteworthy, as the reason for that is that state has not submitted data on violence against women to CEPAL or the United Nations.

The high school feminist movement initiated in Chile in the first semester arrived in Brazil! Private students from Rio de Janeiro’s private PENSI network triggered a social media based national movement against the sexual harassment of teachers and students under the Twitter hashtag #HarassmentAtPensiIsAHabit. They wore red and rallied in public squares and inside their schools to demanding concrete measures to eradicate this practice. (Read in Portuguese)

Sexuality & art

In occasion of the QueerMuseum and its effects, we highlight the works displayed in the exhibition.

We recommend

Papers and articles

Éric Fassin: The neo-fascist moment of neo-liberalism – Brave New Europe

Masculinities at the Margins: A feminist Curiosity of Gender, Militarism and War – E-International Relations

Ending forced sterilization of women and girls with disabilities – Euro-Mediterranean Women Foundation

Bodily Echoes: a performative reading of the feminist strike in Spain and beyond – Engenderings LSE Blog

Kabir, Kamal and Kashi: Straightening the Queer – The Wire

Guna Yala: the islands where women make the rules – BBC

Azaan: Voices of Eid and Ramadam 2018 – Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity


2015-2016 Global Resources Report: Philanthropic and Government Support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Communities – Global Philanthropy Project

Community Guide: Sex Work and Gender Equality, NSWP – 2017

Directory of Studies and Research on Women’s Political Participation in MENA Region – Cawtar


Sassa Adulta Mayor Trans Bolivia (subtitled) – MANODIVERSA

Secret lives of Kenya’s drag queens – BBC


Reflections on our countries – August 2018 – RESURJ

International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

20 August 2018–26 August 2018

13 August 2018–19 August 2018

6 August 2018–12 August 2018

Equal eyes on our world

19 August 2018

Gender Letter – New York Times

10 August 2018

Check it out!

Amnesty International is looking for a Researcher/Adviser on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities within the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program. Closing date: October 9, 2018.

The Sexual Rights Initiative will hold the “Regional Developments in Abortion Law and Policy Reform” at the 39th regular session of the Human Rights Council. The event will be held on September 13, 2018 from 1 PM to 2:30 PM at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.


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